Athletic Recruiting Financial Aid

Eye on a Full-ride Athletic Scholarship? 5 Facts You Should Know

Full-ride athletic scholarship

Many student-athletes dream of landing a full-ride athletic scholarship to play their sport in college. And for good reason. Full-ride scholarships help students attend school for little cost. Tuition, room and board, books and certain course fees are typically covered.

Full-ride athletic scholarships are a great deal; however, for many student-athletes, they may not be realistic. In fact, the average athletic scholarship amount received by varsity men is about $5,493 and the average for women is about $6,625, according to And these numbers are probably a little high.

Full-ride athletic scholarships depend on your sport, division level, school and the position you play. We’ve put together some of the top factors to consider when searching for a full-ride athletic scholarship.

1. Headcount sports offer only full-ride scholarships

NCAA categorizes sports into one of two buckets: headcount or equivalency. Headcount sports only offer full-ride scholarships. Here’s how it works: They have a specific number of scholarships they can give out each year, and each scholarship is a full-ride. This means that every player with a scholarship is there on a full-ride. Anyone else is considered a walk-on. Headcount sports include the following:

  • Division I men’s and women’s basketball
  • Division IA football
  • DI women’s tennis
  • DI women’s volleyball
  • DI women’s gymnastics

2. Equivalency sports typically only offer partial scholarships

Equivalency sports—any sport not listed above—work a little differently than headcount sports, and, unfortunately, don’t often offer full-ride athletic scholarships. Coaches have a certain amount of scholarship money they can use, and they distribute it out to as many players as they want. Top athletes on the team generally receive more money than athletes lower down on their list. Bear in mind that you can always add other types of financial aid to your athletic scholarship. Research if you qualify for academic, merit, need-based or private scholarships.

3. Some sports positions are more likely to receive a larger scholarship offer

It may sound unfair, but in certain sports, one position might be more likely to receive more scholarship money over another. In baseball, for example, pitchers tend to get larger scholarship offers than an outfielder because of the impact their position makes on the game. For track and field, sprinters get more scholarship dollars because they tend to run in more events than long distance runners. Do your research to see where your position lands.

4. If you’re not getting the scholarship amount you want, move down a level

If you’re only considering DI schools, start reaching out to DII schools. Being a top recruit makes you a more attractive prospect for coaches. And some programs offer full or almost full scholarships to top athletes, rounding out the roster with recruited walk-ons. This tactic is often used in sports like baseball, softball, track and swimming. Unless you are determined to attend a specific school at a higher level, you’ll have more opportunities by broadening your search to various levels.

5. Most athletic scholarships aren’t guaranteed for all four years

Most athletic scholarships are one-year contracts that need to be renewed each year. If you’re a full-ride athlete your freshman year, that doesn’t necessarily guarantee you a scholarship your sophomore year. Some schools are now offering multi-year contracts for either two, three or four years. However, these offers are still rare and typically reserved for top players.

If you still have more questions about scholarships and college recruiting, give our recruiting experts a call at 866-495-7727. Create your free recruiting profile to start getting discovered by colleges.

About the author
Kelly Mantick

Kelly Mantick is a writer at NCSA Next College Student Athlete.